- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Even if your mother isn’t an old-fashioned girl, this very traditional American cake is sure to please her on her day.

Devil’s food cake is an American classic, and this is about the best recipe I’ve ever come up with for it. Using brown sugar makes all the difference, making the cake supermoist and also boosting the chocolate flavor.

The icing is easy to make - I’ve simplified the method. In the past, it was prepared like a cooked meringue in which the egg whites are whipped and a hot sugar syrup is poured over them. The method here combines all the ingredients and heats them over boiling water - it’s faster and more reliable.

Stop by a local bakery or cake decorating supplier and buy two 9-inch cardboards and a sturdy 10-inch cake box for assembling and transporting the cake. Bake the layers as much as a week in advance, leaving the paper stuck to the bottom of them for easy handling. Place the layers on the cardboards and double-wrap them in plastic. Refrigerate or freeze.

Make the icing and assemble the cake the day before you intend to bring it to your mother. Place it in the box, and then double-wrap the box in plastic - the cake will be fine for 24 to 36 hours.

Devil’s food cake with fluffy white icing

Makes one 9-inch round 2-layer cake.

CAKE BATTER:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

3/4 cup milk or buttermilk

FLUFFY WHITE ICING:

4 large egg whites

Large pinch salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 9-inch round layer pans, 2 inches deep, buttered and the bottoms lined with a disk of parchment or buttered wax paper, cut to fit

Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, and stir well to mix.

Combine the butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until lightened in color and texture, about 3 or 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the cooled chocolate.

Decrease the mixer speed to lowest and add one-third of the flour mixture. Stop and scrape the bowl and beater. Beat in half the milk, and stop and scrape the bowl and beater.

Repeat steps 5 and 6 with another one-third of the flour and the remaining milk. Stop and scrape. Beat in the remaining flour mixture.

Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well-risen and feel firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then unmold, turn right side up again and cool completely.

For the icing, half fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Combine the egg whites, salt, sugar and corn syrup in the bowl of an electric mixer, and whisk by hand, just to mix together.

Regulate the heat under the pan of water so that it boils gently and place the bowl on the pan. Whisk gently just to keep the mixture moving until it is hot (about 140 degrees) and all the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl on the mixer with the whisk and whip the icing until it has cooled and become white and fluffy.

Peel off the paper and put one of the cake layers right side up on a cake cardboard or platter. Spoon a little less than half the icing on the layer, using a medium metal offset spatula to spread it evenly and to the edge all around. Invert the second layer on the icing (the smooth bottom of the layer is now uppermost) and gently press the layer into the icing; peel off the paper. Spread the entire outside of the cake with the remaining icing, using the point of the spatula to swirl it all over, as opposed to spreading it straight and flat.

Cut wedges of the cake at the table, using a long, thin-bladed knife. The icing is sticky, so wipe the knife with a wet cloth every time you cut through the cake to avoid tracking crumbs into it.

Keep the cake under a cake dome at room temperature - plastic wrap or foil will stick to the icing and pull it off the cake.

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